How To Use YouTube Live To Improve Student Engagement with Robert Oliver

Robert Oliver - CTE Teacher & Professional Photographer



In this episode of the Prep Period Podcast, CTE teacher and photographer Robert Oliver discusses how he uses YouTube Live to improve student engagement in his class.

Learn about what made Robert switch to using YouTube Live for his classes and other tips and tricks he discovered to improve student engagement, even in remote-learning settings.


Narrator: [00:00:00]
You’re listening to Prep Period, the only podcast for teachers that’s focused on quick Narrator: [00:00:05] Wins and actionable tips that can be implemented in your classroom tomorrow.

Narrator: [00:00:09]
Prep period starts in three… Two… One…

Brian Bean: [00:00:17]
Welcome to the podcast. My name’s Brian Bean. I’m your host. And in today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how to use YouTube Live to increase student engagement, and as our guests would say, to meet students where they are.

Brian Bean: [00:00:31] We’re also going to talk about some of the advantages that YouTube Live offers to other platforms like Google Meet or Zoom. Our guest today is going to be Robert Oliver from Central Coast, New Tech High. So welcome, Robert. Now, before we dive in, first things first is kind of let’s let our listeners become a little bit more familiar with you. So Robert Oliver teaches career technical education design, as well as media and visual arts at Central Coast, new tech high school right there as the name entails, right on the central coast of California. This is his 10th year in the classroom after spending the beginning of his career as a sports photographer, then a photojournalist, and a commercial photographer for magazines and various commercial clients. So if any of you are interested in his photo work, you can actually go and see that at his website

Brian Bean: [00:01:29]
So with that, I would anticipate that this is going to be a pretty tech-heavy conversation with some really cool multimedia things that we can talk about. So right off the bat, we talked about it in the intro about YouTube Live. I am not familiar. So for the listeners that are not familiar, what is YouTube Live?

Robert Oliver: [00:01:51]
So YouTube Live is just the ability to record straight broadcasts into YouTube. We’re at a Google School, so we have access to all of the Google suite, which includes YouTube. So I could just push a button, a button and type a couple of words, and they’d be broadcasting Live to YouTube instantly.

Brian Bean: [00:02:07]
Oh, OK. Well, there you go. Now, you mentioned Google, so why not Google Meet or even Zoom? Why? Why YouTube? What’s the advantage?

Robert Oliver: [00:02:15]
It’s kind of funny. So early on this year, I was doing a lecture and I was doing a Photoshop demonstration. And some of the kids are like, “Mr. Oliver, We can’t see what’s going on,” To the best of my knowledge, Google is actually like kind of compressing your video the more students you have in there. So as bandwidth increases, they’re kind of compressing video. So the kids couldn’t see that I was actually pulling down the file menu. So and just in kind of a heat of the moment panic, you know, I was like, “well, let’s try YouTube Live.” So I gave the kids a link to YouTube Live, which I just been experimenting with. And that worked out way better for them. They were able to just kind of jump over to YouTube Live and watch me there. I had a really cool benefit of saving my recorded lesson to YouTube afterward so the kids could go back and revisit it any time. They could see it in full high resolution. It just it was a much better experience. So and I think it kind of met the kids with where they’re at anyway. You know, ask a kid, you know, how to do something and they need to figure it out. They’ll go to YouTube, look for a video and watch it. So it kind of works in their style of learning as well, I think.

Brian Bean: [00:03:13]
Oh, that’s awesome. And you just I’m assuming you very simply Googled YouTube Live and you can go from there and the accounts are free to set up?

Robert Oliver: [00:03:22]
You know, I don’t know the answer to that as far as like if you don’t have if you’re not a Google school. If you just go to YouTube dot com, there’s a little button up top and I can kind of punch over to that real quick. So for those of us that are going to watch on video, there’s a button up here in the right-hand corner. Just go ahead and add video. So just hit the create button and then go Live.

Brian Bean: [00:03:44]
OK and from there,Well, let me just kind of narrate this for those of you who are just listening and not watching this podcast is a video on YouTube’s homepage. There’s just a little icon in the top for uploading, and then it drops down a little menu where you can click YouTube Live. All right. Well, fantastic. So I’m assuming that you would use these for a lot of kind of project-based learning strategies. I’m wondering,

can you share some examples of projects that you’ve done with these specific tools in your class?

Robert Oliver: [00:04:16]
Yeah, so I teach a so I teach a couple of different genres of art as we go through this class. So we start off with graphic design using moved to photography, and then filmmaking is my third one. So my filmmaking class this year, that was a kind of a scary class to teach, you know, how do you teach filmmaking over, you know, distance learning? And the kids don’t have the same equipment. They don’t have the same video editing. Some kids on Chromebook, some were on Mac, some were on PCs. It was just kind of a headache. So my favorite video lesson I do is I have the kids make a music video on a social issue topic so they can pick any social issue they want. So we set up lessons on how to do filmmaking. This is art. We started with a project that was basically where I had the kids create a short film using still photographs. That was our first one. And that kind of set us up for the music slideshow –

Brian Bean: [00:05:06]
Like a slideshow.

Robert Oliver: [00:05:07]
slideshow to music. And they could add in their own audio and stuff. So that was the setup for it. So, yeah, I pretty much gave the kids is like, OK, we need to make a music video. You could pick the song, you could pick the social issue. It’s got to be school-appropriate, of course. So, yeah, I would just set up lessons on just simple filmmaking things, how to move the camera why, you know, camera angles shot types and all those things. So I would record those lessons for them Live and then they could go back and revisit them as they needed, and then they put together their videos and got some incredible work. So I’m going to be posting a couple of those to my YouTube channel.

Brian Bean: [00:05:39]
I can just imagine that I I’m sitting here listening to you and I’m thinking about it. And I’m like, what a perfect activity for the 2020 school year, right?

Robert Oliver: [00:05:51] Yeah.

Brian Bean: [00:05:51]
With all the different things going on in the country where I’m sure students aren’t they’re not naive, they’re not dumb, they know what’s going on and they have emotions. And so to give them an outlet like that, that I think is fantastic.

Can you think of an example of one that really stood out to you like, man, this student, this guy, this girl? They just nailed it. I loved it.

Robert Oliver: [00:06:12]
Yeah, I had a couple that I was really, really proud of. Most of them based around, believe it or not. Social isolation.

Brian Bean: [00:06:20]
Social isolation? I wonder where they got the inspiration for that topic.

Robert Oliver: [00:06:24]
Yeah. Right. Looking out their window. So I had some really powerful videos on just kids being locked in a room alone. That was a pretty, pretty repeating theme. So, yeah, McKayla Jacob did a video that is just incredible. My student, Mandy had one just super powerful. Even had a student that was really having, I would say, going through a really bad mental breakdown. Couldn’t complete the assignment, just hated it, was able to see some of the other examples and was like totally inspired, and just came through with the most beautiful video of just about – about seeking happiness and not giving up. It was really cool, so it’s really cool to see these videos like grow on them and stuff. And and it was true I mean, like with project-based learning, the idea is I don’t really teach you everything you need to know. I gave you the basic skills, but you’re going have to go out there and figure it out on your own. That’s kind of what we do here at New Tech. And I love that. So I give the kids freedom to go. I had some kids animate their videos. I had some kids decide to do film, kind of, you know, but they had to kind of figure out some of the stuff on their own. And it was just super powerful.

Brian Bean: [00:07:32]
Man, yeah. I don’t suppose it really got a little off-script, a little bit on the podcast notes that I’ve got here. But I’m dying to know, is there anywhere we can go to see examples of some of those videos? Like you describe that one young man’s entry and I want to just go see it.

Robert Oliver: [00:07:51]
Yeah, I will post them to my YouTube channel. So before the end of the day, I’ll have him up there so that like people could go check them out. There’s I know – I don’t think I’ve updated in the last couple weeks with this project just wrapped up last week. So I haven’t finished updating them, but I do have permission to share the videos. So they will be going up on my YouTube channel, so – Brian Bean: [00:08:07] And so on YouTube, we just do a search for Robert Oliver?

Robert Oliver: [00:08:13]
Yeah. So I’ll send you a link for it if you want to post the link in there for viewers.

Brian Bean: [00:08:17]
Yeah, that’d be great. I’ll put it in the afterthought. So that’s awesome, man. That’s pretty cool. You know, I love this concept of kind of just. And it’s the beauty of project based learning. I did a lot of that when I was in the classroom teaching personal finance. My entire teaching model was built on project based learning. And the whole idea is I’m not going to hold your hand through this entire process.

Robert Oliver: [00:08:42] Yeah.

Brian Bean: [00:08:42]
In fact, I don’t really care how you get from A to B. I only care that you get from A to B. So I’m going to point you in the right direction. I’m going to kind of show you where you’re at on the map and where your goal is, and then go get creative.

Robert Oliver: [00:08:56] Yeah.

Brian Bean: [00:08:56]
And I love that. I think that’s I think and some classes are more prone to that kind of approach than others.

Robert Oliver: [00:09:04] Yeah.

Brian Bean: [00:09:05]
So I think it’s awesome that you’re taking advantage of it.
Now, how could somebody utilize this, particularly like YouTube Live, beyond just a replacement tool for Zoom? How could you use this to enhance your distance learning environment?

Robert Oliver: [00:09:19]
Well, I think the biggest thing is it allows kids to revisit your lessons whenever they want to. So my whole idea to this is we’re a college prep school. And what’s more college prep than having kids learn how to build their own schedule and work as needed? I mean, like so if you go to college, you’re going to go to class on Monday and Wednesday and you might have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday to complete your project. How you manage your time is up to you. I don’t really care. I don’t micromanage my kids in that regard. It’s like I’ll do my lesson. They could go off into asynchronous learning. And if they do it at two o’clock in the morning or that hour, it doesn’t it doesn’t matter to me. It’s just kind of how they schedule their own time. So it’s kind of a good, I think, college prepping for it. So I think the biggest thing is it just allows me to record my lessons now. If you’ve ever recorded at Google Meet before, you can have some really uncomfortable moments as the camera switches back and forth to whoever is making noise. So there’s a couple of videos where I was recording and all a sudden someone sneezed and all of a sudden the camera pops over to their room and you got to you know, you have a student laying in their bed. Not something I want to broadcast and put up for the world to see. So the YouTube Live streaming, I’m able to like just throw in exactly what I want. You know, my camera only there not it’s never going to switch over to the kids in their rooms.

Brian Bean: [00:10:32]
So you got a little bit more user friendly controls in that regard.

Robert Oliver: [00:10:35] Yeah

Brian Bean: [00:10:36]
It sounds like YouTube Live was built a little bit more with this kind of thing in mind. I don’t know if they did that on purpose or not, but it certainly seems like it was built a little bit more. And I’m guessing that a lot of teachers out there are unfamiliar with YouTube Live.

Robert Oliver: [00:10:51] Yeah

Brian Bean: [00:10:52]
I think Zoom. I tell you what, if I could go back eight months from now and invest in Zoom, that’s where every one of my dollars – well, other than Tesla – that’s where all my money is going is in Zoom. Right.

Brian Bean: [00:11:03]
So for those who are unfamiliar, what would you suggest? First steps? How do they get started? What would you suggest would be a good strategy to start implementing tools like this?

Robert Oliver: [00:11:15]
I mean, they’ve really made it really user friendly, so it was pretty I mean, like literally it’s like the idea kind of popped in my head in the middle of a class while the lecture was completely failing. I mean, like literally like this is my first Photoshop lesson of the year. And the kids couldn’t even see what I was doing. And so I was able to get in seamlessly with a couple of pauses and “ums”. You know, the little panic stutters.

Brian Bean: [00:11:36] Yeah.

Robert Oliver: [00:11:36]
We get when when you get when the lessons go bad, if you’ve ever been in the classroom, which you have, lessons go bad. And how do you fix them as you’re going? Yeah, I was able to figure it out, get it up there. The kids were able to all get on there really quick and easy. I thought it was just it was pretty intuitive.

Brian Bean: [00:11:52]
Gotcha. So they pretty much are kind of-.

Robert Oliver: [00:11:54] Yeah,

Brian Bean: [00:11:54]
We just got done talking about how we don’t want to hold our hold the hands of the students. But it sounds like that YouTube Live pretty much holds your hand through the process and you.

Robert Oliver: [00:12:02]
Yes, it was pretty simple.

Brian Bean: [00:12:04]
So I would imagine then if teachers are out there listening there and they’re not feeling like they’re very tech savvy, that it’s pretty simple to get set up online, etc.. I want to kind of double back then a little bit.

[00:12:17] And let’s talk a little bit more about some of the different kinds of projects that you can do and how to pull those off from a distance learning standpoint and help student engagement. You know, I love the one story about the one student who was able to can make that emotional connection. Can you give us some other examples of different projects that you’ve done?

Robert Oliver: [00:12:37]
Yeah, so my class is really focused on I really want to create community involvement with my kids, so I work with non-profits as much as I can around the area and have my kids create design for them or video, posters…

[00:12:49] So this year, one of our big events here on the central coast is the Still Frothy Surf Festival, which is a nonprofit charity that gives money to to young competitive surfers and helps them finance in their training and travel. So my kids will design promotional materials for that. The event got canceled this year because of Covid. But they did a video contest. So my kids were able to create Instagram posters for that. And so the organization was able to choose their favorite student work. My kids presented their work to the organized organizers, and then they they picked their favorite ones posted on their Instagram account. And so I really try to keep that that going as far as that goes, we had a school production of War of the Worlds, and so they came to me and we’re basically a graphic design, you know, company.

So they gave us they gave us the design brief, told us what they needed and then the kids all put in their designs. And then the the the production chose their favorite design for it. So I really my whole my whole goal is to have no busy work in my class so that everything is useful in design and relevant to the, to the students. Not everything is my my students by general don’t really like surfing as much as I do. So but we kind of discuss that as like, well, when you’re a graphic designer, you don’t really care what the topic is. Your love is design. So and you’re trying to like meet your skills, make your skills, match what your client wants, which is one of the hardest things is to, you know, as a graphic designer, learning how to create artwork for somebody else. You know, creating work for yourself is easy when you have to like design something that somebody else is expecting.

[00:14:20] That’s the challenge. And so I give my kids that experience quite a bit so they could, you know, get real, real client feedback.

Brian Bean: [00:14:27]
Yeah. Oh, I love it. I love it. And it – it just reinforces that not everything you learn in school is only for school. You know, I think that sometimes is is the kryptonite for a lot of classes where kids are like, “when am I ever going to use this?”

Robert Oliver: [00:14:41] Yeah, well and I-

Brian Bean: [00:14:43]
and it’s one of the beauties of a project based learning approach like that, where you can kind of almost farm out your work force to other subject matters and different groups within the school and get them involved and it shows them that real world application hands on type thing.

Robert Oliver: [00:14:58]
I mean, I preach all the time. This is like parents will probably like to hear this. I preach to my kids all the time, do not become a photographer, a graphic designer. So the worst career choice you could make right now. But if that’s what you’re called to do, if that’s what your passion is, this is how you’re going to do it. Um, so, yeah, it’s just you know, it’s one of those things that. How do I just say this like there’s a right way to do it?

Brian Bean: [00:15:22]
Well, sure. Certainly. Well, thank you very much for your time. I sure appreciate you joining us for the podcast. I loved learning about some of the things that you’re doing in your classroom. You certainly introduced me to a new tool that I’m not familiar with. And I think that our listeners are going to gain a lot from this experience. And I urge them all go out and check out YouTube Live compare it to your experience with some of your other resources and hopefully see if they can’t make your life a little bit easier. So thank you very much for sharing.

Robert Oliver: [00:15:48]
I think it will. Of course.

Brian Bean: [00:15:52]
What a great episode. So for my final thoughts today first I just want to point out, Robert had referenced a YouTube channel where you could look and see some of his students videos and other things. If you go to YouTube and then just do a search there for Robert Oliver Photography, his will be the first one that pops up. He’s got a kind of a scruffy long beard. Looks kind of like he’s wearing glasses and a beanie hat. Looks like a cold surfer guy. Not to be confused with the fitness instructor that will show up, also named Robert Oliver right below that.

Brian Bean: [00:16:25]
So go and check out his his YouTube channel or watch some of the videos that his students have produced. As I was listening to the conversation and listening to his feedback and and one of the concepts are really stood out in my mind was this was this idea of kind of giving the students the basic necessities, pointing them in the right direction, giving them the critical information that they need, but then letting them kind of choose their path and go from there and it actually reminded me a lot of this book.

Brian Bean: [00:16:57]
For those of you watching the video, it’s right there for those of you listening, it’s called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. It’s a great book. And just like the title says, it’s all about how to navigate change and how to instigate different changes either in an organization or your personal life. But one of the things in there that really stood out to me, one of the concepts that the book pounds home, is this idea of scripting the critical choices and how it really empowers and enables decisions to be made. And so when you’re giving your students kind of a project that they’re working on, it’s important to not try to plan out and map out everything for them. I know a lot of us as teachers, that’s our go to strategy. We want to make sure these instructions are as thorough as possible or you never know what you’re going to get.

Brian Bean: [00:17:52]
Instead, try this as a technique.

[00:17:54] Instead, just script the critical choices and let your students creativity fill in the blanks. I love that concept. It looks like that’s worked really well for Robert.

So with that, thank you very much for tuning in, as always. If you know anyone who’d be interested in coming on to our podcast, have them reach out to me. My email address is [email protected]. Thanks always for tuning in. Thanks for staying awake. Stay healthy. Love y’all.

Speaker: Robert Oliver - CTE Teacher & Professional Photographer


Robert Oliver teaches Career Technical Education Design, Media and Visual Arts at Central Coast New Tech High on the Central Coast of California. This is his 10th year in the classroom after spending the beginning of his career as a sports photographer, photojournalist and commercial photographer for magazines and commercial clients. His photo work can be seen at


Robert Oliver Photography

Robert Oliver’s YouTube Page

YouTube Live

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